By Nathan Barton
We were taught, as we grew up, to respect the dead, to show sympathy for the families suffering the loss, and above all to “speak no ill of the dead.”
How naïve we were back then. Of course, back in the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s, there were limits to that rule of civility. Certainly not many people, worldwide, spoke anything but ill of Uncle Adolph. Or, in the West, of Uncle Joe. Truth is more important than being nice, when it comes to people like that.
Today, nice people still try not to speak ill of the dead. But not everyone is nice. In all corners of the political room, the voices are loud and rude. There are those who not just rejoice in the death of anyone who does not agree with them, continuing to trash them after death as they did before they died. Some publicly proclaim their desire for their opponents to die. Preferably in some painful, drawn-out, way.
Or worse, they do everything that they can to hasten or cause those deaths. And the deaths of tens, hundreds, thousands, even millions of others. And then dance on their graves.
With that introduction, we come to the subject of John McCain of Arizona.
He is dead. He now faces God for what he did in his life. His fate is no longer in his own hands. Neither is the fate of millions of others still living here on earth. (I do not know whether he will be confronted by the souls whom he sent to early and usually undeserved deaths.)
Listening to the various eulogies, reading the various articles and commentaries, I am struck by both the contrasts and the way the response to his death demonstrates the vicious nature of modern political society.
Let me make it clear: John McCain was an enemy to virtually everything I love: my people and land, truth, honesty, liberty, peace, and military courage and brotherhood, to name a few. He was corrupt, betrayed his family, betrayed his country, and was a warmonger of the most vile sort. He was a political crook and long before he was sent to DC by deluded people, he had wasted millions of stolen taxpayer dollars.
So it is disgusting to hear and read comments from those who opposed him politically. But who talk about what a wonderful military and family man he was, about how kind he was, and how much of a maverick he was. What a hero he was. Written and said by people who respect him regardless of their political disagreements with him.
It is even more disgusting to remember what horrific damage he did while alive. The way he treated his family (his first one, I clarify, not the one gathered around him as he died). The way he treated his fellow sailors. The way he treated millions of people in Mesopotamia, Iran, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, a dozen places in Africa, and more. The way he treated even his fellows in crime in Congress. The way he treated taxpayers.
Obviously, for me, it is very hard NOT to speak ill of the recent dead. Even someone I knew only at third hand, like John McCain.
When speaking of someone, whether alive or dead, what is more important than speaking ill of them (or not), is speaking the truth about them. About what they have done, what they have left as a legacy.
I’ve preached funerals now and then. Sometimes, I can point out what a wonderful example the deceased person was. Someone to emulate. But sometimes, the dead person is another kind of example: someone to serve as a warning to those of us still living. Whose life is an example which we want to avoid. Someone whose character traits we want to recognize so that we can avoid others like them, and not let those traits exist in us. John McCain fits in that second category.
To put it very simply, even crudely, “some people bring joy coming, others by leaving.”